Monday, February 6

Kremlin: Putin told Macron that Russian forces do not pose threat to Ukrainian civilians

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Russian President Vladimir Putin had a call with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, initiated by the French side on Monday, the Kremlin said in a statement.

During the call, the two sides “had a serious and thorough exchange of opinions around the situation in Ukraine,” the Kremlin said.

“French side has expressed its known views” about its hope for a quick settlements through dialogue and negotiations, the Kremlin readout stated. “Vladimir Putin has stressed that such a settlement is only possible with unconditional consideration of Russia’s legitimate defense interests, including recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea, solving tasks of demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine and ensuring its neutral status.”

The readout added that Russia is open for negotiations with Ukraine.

It also claimed that the Russian Armed Forces do not pose any threat to civilians [in Ukraine] and blames the threat on Ukrainian nationalists. 

“Russian President has stressed that the Russian Armed Forces do not threaten civilians and do not strike civilian objects. The threat comes from Ukrainian nationalists who use the civilian population as a human shield, deliberately place striking weapon systems in residential areas, and who intensified shelling of cities in Donbas,” the statement read.

Putin and Macron agreed to remain in contact, the readout concluded.

More background: The ongoing Russian assault has inflicted widespread suffering and casualties on the Ukrainian population. The UN’s Refugee Agency said Monday that more than 500,000 refugees had so far fled Ukraine to neighboring countries amid Russia’s ongoing invasion and military aggression.

The number of known civilians killed in Ukraine is at least 352, with 14 of those children, Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior said Sunday.

A senior US official told reporters Monday that Russian forces are “causing civilian harm and they are striking civilian targets,” but it is unclear “whether it’s intentional and directed,” the official added.

Official: US hasn’t seen “anything specific” since Putin’s decision to put deterrence forces on high alert

US has not seen “anything specific” since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he ordered his country’s deterrence forces, including nuclear weapons, on high alert on Sunday, a senior US defense official told reporters Monday.

“We’re still monitoring and watching this as closely as we can, given President Putin’s announcement yesterday,” the official said. “I don’t believe we’ve seen anything specific as a result of the direction that he gave.”

“We remain comfortable and confident in our own strategic deterrence posture,” the official added.

Russian forces could take “more aggressive approach” towards Kyiv, senior US defense official says

From CNN’s Barbara Starr, Ellie Kaufman and Michael Conte

It is possible that the Russians could take a “more aggressive approach” in their attempts to take the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv, because they are frustrated that their progress has slowed and they’ve faced resistance from Ukrainians there, a senior US defense official told reporters on Monday.

“Certainly, they have been slowed and they have been frustrated by their lack of progress on Kyiv, and one of the things that could result is a reevaluation of their tactics and the potential for them to be more aggressive and more overt in both the size and the scale of their targeting of Kyiv,” the official said in response to a question from CNN’s Barbara Starr. 

The official said they have “not seen” that more aggressive approach “yet” from the Russians, but “the frustrations could lead to a more aggressive approach.” 

“We still believe that Kyiv is an objective for them. It’s impossible to speculate as to how they may or may not change their plans going forward,” the official said.

The Russian forces are now “roughly 25 km out of Kyiv,” a senior US defense official told reporters Monday morning eastern time. 

Russian forces are “advancing on the ground and trying to get closer to Kyiv.” Russian forces “clearly want to encircle Kyiv from multiple locations, not just the north, but to move around it as well from the south,” the official added. 

“The Ukrainians are putting up continued and sustained and stiff resistance in and around Kyiv, and we certainly don’t see any slackening off on their part either,” the official said.

Germany vows to take in all Ukrainian refugees 

From Inke Kappeler in Berlin

Germany has vowed to take in all Ukrainian refugees who flee from a Russian invasion of their country.

“We will take in all Ukrainians fleeing,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at a joint news conference with her Slovenian counterpart Anze Logar on Monday. “We are helping fleeing people from Ukraine. We are standing at the borders to bring help to the people and to bring people to all European countries.”

Baerbock also promised more humanitarian help to Ukraine.

Ahead of the UN General Assembly in New York this week, Baerbock asked all countries who “believe in the Charta of the United Nations” to isolate the Russian leadership for its invasion of Ukraine.

“Today it is already the fifth day of Putin’s war against Ukraine and innocent people in Ukraine. He has brought incredible sufferings upon Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands are fleeing, millions fear for their lives and their future. As atrocious as these pictures are, they make us more decisive! Ukraine does not stand alone, Europe, the Western Union of Values firmly stands at the side of the brave Ukrainians,“ Baerbock said.

In a major policy shift, Germany promised weapons to Ukraine on Saturday.

“Putin’s war has thrown us into a different era. We will re-evaluate previous certainties and therefore we will help Ukrainians with weapons and other equipment,” Baerbock added.

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